January 13, 2014 11:12:11 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The Mississippi State women's basketball team erased a nine-point second-half deficit to win its first Southeastern Conference game of the season Sunday afternoon.
Behind Martha Alwal's 24th career double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) and a standout performance from Breanna Richardson (15 points, nine rebounds), MSU defeated Arkansas 54-50 at the Bud Walton Arena.
With the win, MSU improved to 14-3 and 1-2 in the SEC. MSU's first win in Fayetteville, Ark., since 2010 also helped it improve on its win total from last season. Arkansas fell to 14-3 and 1-3.
"It was a heck of a basketball game," MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. "I was really proud of my kids. They are so competitive. They really compete on most nights. We did an unbelievable job on Jessica Jackson. She is really one of the best players in our league.
"I told my freshmen before the game, it was freshman versus freshman. Breanna did a great job on one of their best players. We have been rebounding so poorly. However, we hold Arkansas to three offensive rebounds."
Jackson was averaging 19.7 points per game in conference play but was held to four points, with Richardson being her primary defensive responsibility. Ketara Chapel also assisted on the defense.
"All week it was Jessica Jackson this, Jessica Jackson that," Richardson said. "Coach told us the key to winning the game was to control her. We really took that as a personal challenge. Coach told me if I wanted to impact the game, the best way I could do that was by stopping her."
Richardson also delivered on the offensive end, with a 6-of-10 night from the field and 3-of-5 night at the free throw line. For Richardson, the point total was a career high, while her rebounding total gives her 34 boards in the last four games.
"We had an inside presence this game," Ricahardson said. "We started out slow. Sometimes the guards missed us in the first half. In the second half, they did a better job of getting us the ball and our job then was to finish."
The Bulldogs quickly built a 10-3 lead with a 10-1 run in the early stages of the half. The Razorbacks recovered and grabbed their first lead at 19-17 with 4 minutes, 38 seconds left in the half. From there, the teams were virtually even with Arkansas easing into halftime with a 25-23 lead.
"In the first half, I started out terrible, like 0-of-6 from the field," said Alwal. "In the second half, I wanted to play harder and finish my shots. The key to the game was Breanna's defense. She did a great job of stopping (Jackson).
"In the second half, I wanted to make up for a really horrible first half."
Alwal did just that as she helped spark a 10-0 run which erased a 37-28 Arkansas lead. Dominique Dillingham also had a couple of huge defensive plays during the run.
Still, Arkansas enjoyed a 42-38 lead with 9:58 left.
From there, MSU took over for good. A layup by Richardson gave MSU a 44-43 lead. The game's last tie was broken when Dillingham drained a back-breaking 3-point basket with 1:47 left in regulation.
"We really responded after Arkansas went up nine," Schaefer said. "We had a 10-0 run. We are still a young, inexperienced, immature team. That is just the way it is. We grew up a little bit last week against Auburn. We grew up more. Our competitiveness was great tonight. Winning on the road in this league is almost impossible to do."
MSU held a 42-29 rebounding advantage. The Bulldogs had 15 assists and 15 turnovers, while the Razorbacks had eight assists and eight turnovers.
McKenzie Adams had 18 points to lead Arkansas.
"Mississippi State played with a lot of intensity," Arkansas coach TomCollen said. "They knew what they wanted to do and they knew what shots were there for them. They wanted to get inside and our interior defense wasn't that good. We got in foul trouble and that didn't help us. They just kept attacking us down there. It was a tough loss. Mississippi State is a good basketball team."
MSU will play host to No. 8 Tennessee at 8 p.m. Thursday (CSS).